The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Maybe I'm back

JoeVa's picture

Maybe I'm back

After a long break, I'm now able to return to blogging, I hope ...

I don't want to bore you all with my baking problems (although I did with some of you, my "baking friends" ... you know Shiao-Ping!?), but I have to share with you what I think I've learned.

First I'll show you my last (I should say my first) sourdough loaf after a full month of bread thrashing.

[The loaf]


[The crumb - a half]


[The crumb - the other half]


[The crust]


Here my notes:

  • Use a good oven. My oven is really "cooked" (I showed it in THIS post), now even more than ever. Can I say I HATE it? It's crazy, about 50°C hotter in the back. Then, the temperature goes up and down and when it goes up the top heating element is incandescent.
  • Steam. The first half of the baking is crucial. An efficient steaming method must be used. I switched from my pre-heated clay pot to a not pre-heated stainless boule (in my case just a big steel pot). This covered steaming method is the only one I can use and I found really important to use a not pre-heated cover - before it gets hot, it gives the bread the time to free the steam.
  • Use a reasonably good flour.
  • Take care of the levain. Try to use it at the peak or a bit before.
  • Do not be a stupid house wife. First watch the dough than watch the clock.
  • The wetter is NOT always the better. You have to master the process.
  • Check your refrigerator. Find a spot that register the right temperature for cold proofing. It's easy to put the dough in a refrigerator that you think should be around 5°C and then you find that in the night it goes down to 2°C.
... that's the home baker life. Don't you think it's too easy to bake bread in a bakery where you have perfect flour, steamed deck oven, proofing cabinet, mixer ... ?
To do list:
  • Work more on the previous notes.
  • The subtle art of fermentation. One thing I have to better understand is what there's behind leaving, fermentation and dough ripening; and how to control these things. Maybe you think the bread I showed is ok ... absolutely not, I think it's mediocre: a plain, not so complex, full flavored bread.

The bread I baked was based on Shiao-Ping suggestions with the obvious adjustment you have to do every time you bake, with different ingredients and conditions: 85% bread flour, 10% whole wheat, 5% rye. 65% overall hydration. 25% prefermented flour (100% hydration white levain). Short mixing with S&F, 12h retarded at 5°C. I also used the "double flour addition" technique of SteveB (described HERE).

When I was shaping the loaf my sister was around in the kitchen and I asked her to touch the very puffy, smooth just shaped loaf. I loved the word she used - she said: oohh it's sooo (in Italian) bonzo.

And here, just for your fun (but do not joke about me too much!), I want to show you a loaf I thrashed ... I cannot show only good looking bread!




ehanner's picture

What a great post!  Your bread is stupendous looking. Perfection in every area.

Your list of Notes is reflective of knowledge learned the hard way, the best kind. Good to see you back JoeVa


Susan's picture

Stunning loaf, JoeVa!  All that hard work paid off.

Susan from San Diego

SylviaH's picture

Thank you for bringing that gorgeous loaf with you!


Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Giovanni, what a big difference between those two loaves---did you pick up some tips in Paris? Beautiful!

Good to see you back :-)

JoeVa's picture

Ciao Debbie,

no I didn't pick up baking tips in Paris, I mean something new.

The only thing I saw again (and I was really angry about this) is how easy is for those bakers to bake a good loaf of bread. They can use 1/1000 of my dough care, they just put their loaves in that beautiful deck ovens and ... PUFFF! It's not so easy for me, maybe I have to learn much more than I expect.

Yes, I know I should post a short report of Paris, but it will takes too much time ...



Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Well, your last loaf certainly went PUFFF---good job!

Barbara Krauss's picture
Barbara Krauss

HI Joe,

What a gorgeous "first" loaf!  The blistering, the color, the grigne, the crumb, all look perfect.  I wouldn't judge it to be anything but spectacular!

Happy to see you posting again, and thanks for sharing with us all your hard-earned lessons. I find all your posts to be really inspiring.


dmsnyder's picture

Gorgeous loaf and spectacular crumb! And that's a 65% hydration bread?


JoeVa's picture

I checked again my notes and yes, hydration was 65% (I mean  65% +/- 1%, you know when you work with small amount of flour 1g scale in not accurate).

But what would have been if I had followed the exact (72%) hydration suggested by Shiao-Ping? I think it's all in the process, with that hydration I would have had to tweak my process and I don't know if I am able to do these adjustments.

Let's see the next (tweaked) loaf ...


wally's picture

I think not. That is a beautiful sourdough! Forget what you thrashed.  The crumb of your latest loaf is nothing short of spectacular.

Shiao-Ping's picture

I now believe you - if you are still saying the flavour of your absolutely gorgeous looking loaf is "mediocre," it is the flour that you used, that is not to your taste.   I have no doubt that anyone would love to have your loaf; I know I would!   

If I were you, I would test organic flour that use stone-milling technique, that is to your taste and standard.  Not all flours are the same.  Same organic, same milling technique, same species of wheat barriers even, but how do we know if they are the same?  No, we don't, not until we test it in our kitchen!

An outstanding looking loaf just the same!


JoeVa's picture

Yes Shiao-Ping, you read in my mind: the flour. I used a supermarket white bread flour, I know it taste like plastic.

I have just planned the same bread with another bread flour I want to test, just to explore the flavor potential. And you know I have also to come back to "my miche", my T80 is still there.


Mebake's picture

Beautiful Loaf.. Yumy, i can smell it through the pics..

BTW, don't thrash your not so perfect loaves, they make for a great toast you know. I have toasted much worst loaves, and they still tatse great. I believe bread is a blessing, don't waste it.

Good baking, nice tips too,

Thanks Giov.

JoeVa's picture

I usually don't thrash "not so perfect" loaves, I leave those for my family ... what a bad guy!

Yes, bread is a blessing.


salma's picture

Hi Giovanni,  Welcome back, missed you and your wonderful breads.  I can feast on your bread with my eyes even if you find it lacking to your taste.


Pablo's picture

Thanks.  What an inspiration. 

I have discovered that to me, there are three "t"s that are nearly as important as the ingredients.  Time, Temperature and Technique.  Good luck on your flour quest.  I am not happy with my flour either, but maybe there's a magic mix out there that will make me happy.  I only bake with flour, water and salt.  The think the "wild yeast" is exciting.

Thanks again for the inspirational photographic share, and your thoughts as well.


Barbara Krauss's picture
Barbara Krauss

Hi Joe,

I'm a little confused as to what exactly you mean by the term "pre-fermented flour" as in the following passage:

The bread I baked was based on Shiao-Ping suggestions with the obvious adjustment you have to do every time you bake, with different ingredients and conditions: 85% bread flour, 10% whole wheat, 5% rye. 65% overall hydration. 25% prefermented flour (100% hydration white levain).

If you were formulating a recipe starting with 1000 grams of total flour and 650 grams of water, what would the rest of the  formula look like?

Thanks so much.


JoeVa's picture

Take a look at THIS. I suggest you reading "J.Hamelman - Bread" introduction. If you still have trouble leave me a message.


Barbara Krauss's picture
Barbara Krauss

I must have missed this the first time around, but thanks for the detailed clarification.